It was a long arduous road to Montreal for the Neal Morse Band. Stuck at the border for almost the entire day, the band showed up to the venue really late. I arrived about 15 minutes before the stated start time, and the crew was still doing line checks!
Arrived at Canadian border at 7am…it’s now 3:30 and we still haven’t been let through!!! Montreal we are trying our best to get to you…
— Mike Portnoy (@MikePortnoy) February 25, 2015
People were sent up to the balcony, then transferred to the basement where the coat check was located so that the band could sound check out of sight. Details slowly trickled in, including the fact that the local opening act (long running prog rock act Mystery) would not play, in an attempt to speed up the process. Quite a few people had come for them and were really unhappy of that situation; I hope they enjoyed the show nonetheless! Lots of people worried about taking the last metro too, and all the VIP people were told their meet & greet would only happen after the show.
Still, people stayed in good spirits, and the show finally went on slightly after 10 p.m. The band was loudly cheered as they came on stage and went into the soaring vocal harmonies of “The Call”, from the “Grand Experiment” album (see my review here). The calibre of musicians on stage was amazing, and each of them took turns dazzling the crowd. This wasn’t a shred fest by any means, but no one shied away from showing their chops, especially guitarist Eric Gillette. They followed with “Leviathan” from the “Lifeline” album, and the title track to “The Grand Experiment”. Morse then announced, to the crowd’s delight, that they would play an old Spock’s Beard song, “Harm’s Way” which segued into another Spock Beard’s vintage track, “Go the Way You Go”.
After a short keyboard solo from Bill Hubauer, they played “The Creation”, and then Morse grabbed an acoustic guitar and played “There is Nothing That God Can’t Change” solo on stage. “Waterfall” followed, with bassist Randy George playing keyboards, and Hubauer playing guitar and clarinet. (He would later play saxophone too!)
Guitarist Eric Gillette then played a very interesting solo, with clean arpeggiated chords that led into some shredding. It was obvious why Mike Portnoy has said he reminds him of a young John Petrucci. “In the Fire” and the 27 minute epic “Alive Again” concluded the main set in brilliant fashion.
Because of the delay in starting the show, I unfortunately had to leave before the 4 track encore, but according to setlist.fm, they played “Rejoice”, “Oh Lord My God”, a cover of Wings’ “Jet” and “Reunion” to close the evening.
It’s always a pleasure to see such talented musicians, and I could watch Mike Portnoy play drums all day. Progressive rock fans were definitely in for a treat with these guys.
Jean-Frederic runs Diary of a Music Addict. Read more of his stuff HERE.